The Malta Independent 30 May 2020, Saturday

TMID Editorial: Prefabricated hospital - Confusion and a change of heart

Tuesday, 19 May 2020, 08:12 Last update: about 10 days ago

The announcement that a prefabricated hospital was to be built in Malta had both eased concerns of bed space, but also caused controversy in the process regarding allegations that were made.

However the announcement that the idea for this hospital has now been scrapped raises many questions which have yet to be answered.

The prefabricated hospital was an idea that was heavily backed by the health authorities. As an example, Health Superintendent Charmaine Gauci had said on Indepth on 24 April, less than a month ago, that the prefabricated hospital project should continue because as come winter, Malta will be dealing with two viruses concurrently – the Coronavirus and the seasonal influenza.

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She had been asked on that day in April whether Malta needed such a facility given that the number of new Coronavirus registered over the past days prior to the interview had been small. In response, Gauci had said that the health authorities have a duty to protect the Maltese people and have to be prepared for any eventuality. “It is better to have extra beds and equipment and not use it than end up in need of these resources,” she said.

She had said that it is better to be prepared. “We have to be prepared for all eventualities. Preparations have to continue, and this is what we are doing. They should be proportional to what we expect according to our monitoring.” Gauci continued on that day that the authorities are not only thinking about the weeks ahead, “but also for the summer, and the winter, when we will see an increase in influenza cases.” To reiterate, this was said less than one month ago.

So then what could have changed the situation?

Could it be that Abela is listening too much to former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat? Could it be that Malta’s economy isn’t doing as well as we all thought despite the success seen over the years and cuts had to be made? These are all questions that need to be answered.

The obvious consideration is that spending the funds to buy the hospital would be a waste of funds course.  Abela also did say that the cancellation of the prefabricated hospital was done on the advice of the medical authorities, but the question arises, why such a sharp change of heart within such a short period of time?

If this has to do with pinching pennies, perhaps this is not the time, and perhaps that should have been thought of before signing the controversial contract with Vitals Global Healthcare all those years ago.  

Charmaine Gauci was asked about the prefabricated hospital announcement in her Covid-briefing on Sunday and asked her opinion on the situation. She said that Malta was at the forefront throughout the virus period in terms of having beds available, and said that they must ensure there are beds available. Rather than where the beds are located however, “the most important thing is that as much as possible the beds be close to the hospital so the healthcare workers will not need to split and there be enough workers to care for the patients.” She also mentioned that they must keep the beds available as they do not know how the situation will develop.

Regardless of the reason for its cancellation, one point has to be made. Certain statements made by the health authorities and politicians throughout the course of this virus have created confusion. Now the government has denied contradictions between the PM and the health authorities in the past, however the way the messages are being delivered is creating confusion nonetheless. The health authorities should be making the announcements such as that regarding the prefabricated hospital, or that in x days x measures will be relaxed, not politicians.

 

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